Oct 7, 2019

U.S. drug companies lure Mexican blood plasma donors

Bags of blood plasma. Photo: Christian Charisius/picture alliance via Getty Images

Mexicans are regularly crossing the border on temporary visas to sell their blood plasma to pharmaceutical companies, ProPublica reports with ARD German TV.

The big picture: Donors can take home up to $400 a month if they donate twice a week, and then earn extra cash through incentives like recruiting friends or family. For some, it's their only income.

Between the lines: The U.S. has less stringent guidelines than other countries around blood plasma donations, allowing them to be done at a higher frequently.

  • Donating too often can hurt the donor's immune system, and the long-term consequences are unknown.
  • The U.S. is the largest global supplier of blood plasma, and 43 of the 805 U.S. donation centers are located along the southern border. Employees at some of the centers estimated that between 60% and 90% of their donors are Mexican citizens.

The legality of crossing the border for this reason — or of collecting plasma from the people who do — is unclear.

  • While U.S. immigration law doesn't allow temporary visas to be used for employment, the plasma companies say that their payments are "compensation," not wages.

Go deeper: The U.S. doesn't spend less on social care than other developed countries

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25% of health care spending is waste

Ambulances in southeast Missouri. Photo: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post/Getty Images

A quarter of total U.S. health care spending — between $760 and $935 billion every year — is waste, according to a new JAMA study lead by William Shrank, who is Humana's chief medical officer.

Why it matters: We all pay for this waste through our premiums, out-of-pocket spending and taxes, and every dollar of it ends up in someone else's pocket. Meanwhile, the health care industry is thriving.

Go deeperArrowOct 8, 2019

Measles can give your immune system amnesia

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

During the two to three years after a measles infection, a person can have immune system "amnesia," where the system appears to forget the prior illnesses and vaccinations that triggered immunity, making the person vulnerable to sometimes-deadly infections.

Why it matters: A number of people are deliberately not getting vaccinated, with some fighting new restrictions on exemptions. But, two new papers provide more evidence that getting measles appears to have longer-term implications than originally thought.

Go deeperArrowNov 1, 2019

Smugglers have been sawing through Trump's border wall

Photo: Omar Martinez/picture alliance via Getty Images

Smuggling gangs in Mexico have been using power tools to saw through new parts of President Trump's border wall, making openings for people and drug loads to pass through, according to the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The border wall was one of Trump's significant policies and rallying cries during the campaign, and it is "a physical symbol of his presidency, touting its construction progress in speeches, ads and tweets," the Post writes.

Go deeperArrowNov 2, 2019